Carpe Diem, The Series: “150 FOR 150”

“150 FOR 150”

Paul Stevens

“150 FOR 150”

On July 1st, we in the frozen north a.k.a. Canada, celebrated the 150th birthday of the ‘True north, strong and free’. What better way to mark the occasion than to embark on a 150 km bike ride (just over 92 miles)! As you read this and are sitting there thinking there must be at least a million better ways to celebrate the day, you are not alone as I would be right there with you.

The Plan:

Once the plan was agreed upon, the next selling point was the start time.  Since the day was to be filled with numerous events that typically surround the national birthday, parades, BBQs, and the like, we somehow came to the conclusion that an early start would be the way to go.  How does 6 a.m. sound to you?  Probably better than it sounded to me. This was one of those occasions where in the absence of viable alternatives, you look at your friends who are all rolling their eyes but cannot put forward a decent alternative. A collective brain cramp combined with macho bravado? Probably, but 6 a.m. it was. That meant a wake-up at 5 a.m. in order to dust off the early morning cobwebs, have a quick shower, and get some decent nutrition into the system before hooking up with my fellow masochists.

The longest one-day ride I have completed to this point was done last summer when I and my fellow Manditos (my riding buddies here in Sarnia) set out for a 120 km ride down the St. Clair Parkway which parallels the St. Clair River. Our destination was Harsens’ Island on the U.S. side of the river.  This included a ferry ride across the river to get to the U.S. side, and a stop at a local ‘golden arches’ for a quick breakfast before returning to the Canadian side.  These were minor stops but each provided a nice break from saddle time.  Our planned Canada Day sojourn would have no such luxuries.

Related Article: Carpe Diem, The Series: Return To The Colonies

Under normal circumstances, I would ride to our meeting point, a distance of about six km from our house, but since we were going to be cranking out 150 km, I decided to load my bike into the hatchback of my car and drive to meet my fellow Manditos. This would later prove to be one of my better decisions on the day.

Setting Off:

Once underway, the day started out very much in our favour – the sky was overcast which kept the warm sun at bay and there was virtually no wind. The absence of wind on its own would be major plus from my point of view.  I have previously commented on my disdain for the wind while riding so the lack of it on this day was truly a welcome development.

Passing through a number of small towns along the way at an early hour allowed us to see that each was planning on festivities for the day – pancake breakfasts, parades, lunchtime BBQs – fun and frivolity for all.  Lots of friendly waving at us as we passed by people getting ready for their day and the whiff of those pancakes being cooked up got very tempting as we rode along.  We were not however to be distracted from our mission for the day.

We initially headed south along the St. Clair Parkway for about 35 km and then headed east into farm country.  You may recall that it is flatter than flat around here however this can make for great riding conditions as it is easy to keep a consistent cadence along straight and long roads.  Somewhat surprising for the day was a distinct lack of vehicles. Not that we were near any urban centres of size but it bordered on eerie how few cars and trucks were on the road.  Did they know something that we didn’t? Were we the only ones not invited to a big party?

Was there a mass alien abduction going on? The lack of vehicles was not necessarily a bad thing, just a bit unusual. It was however still early in the morning and saner people were probably still asleep or maybe enjoying a relaxing breakfast while reading the paper. For us, those comforts would have to wait.

We made two pit stops on the day; one to have a nature call, the other to stop at a convenience store to refuel with some quick snacks.  In addition to what we picked up here, I had packed myself a couple of pudding cups, along with water bottles of course. Pudding cups are a great riding snack as they provide a decent bit of nutrition via some carbs and sugar and they are easily digested without making you feel stuffed or bloated.  They also make a nice compliment to a power bar. Not in a steak and salad kind of way but quite satisfying considering the circumstances when riding.

Related Article: Carpe Diem, The Series: Crunch Time!

So it continued as the kms were knocked off and we were down to our last 30 km heading back west to Sarnia.  At this time, the sun poked out from behind the clouds and although it had behaved well to this point, the westerly wind started to pick up.  That meant that we were dealing with an increasingly strong headwind on our final leg, just when you needed it the least.

Seeing our finishing point just ahead was a welcome sight.  We finished with nothing more than fatigue and no major incidents or discomfort.  We had done it and felt good about that. Total time was about six hours including a couple of pit stops so our average speed was about 25 km/hr.  Subtracting the time for pit stops, our average speed was probably about 27-28 km/hr. That’s not going to make anyone in the Tour de France take notice but a reasonable speed nevertheless. I am attaching a picture of us enjoying a refreshment at our local coffee shop with an appropriate bit of Canadiana as a backdrop.

The Rear View Mirror:

Once it was time to head home, this is where I was able to capitalize on one of my better decisions for the day. I had to give myself a pat on the back for having the foresight to bring my car along as the thought of having to hit the road again was not where I wanted to be.  Now home, a clean-up was in order along with a hearty lunch. Shortly thereafter the couch would be calling my name.

I was able to settle in for some serious downtime while watching a baseball game on TV.  Baseball is perhaps the best couch sport as you can nod off or whatever, come back a few innings later having not missed much of anything.

The eyelids were getting a bit heavy and just as la-la land beckoned, I was rudely brought back to consciousness by our son who was working on an oversized Canada Day crossword puzzle with his girlfriend.

“Hey Dad”, came the yell.  “Who’s the lead singer in Rush (one of Canada’s contributions to the world of rock & roll)?”

“Geddy Lee” I mumbled out.

“Thanks Dad. That fits.”

That kind of snapped me back to consciousness so nap time would have to wait.

While resting on the couch, I remember thinking about how long it would take me to get to the point of being able or even wanting to hop on the bike again and partake of another long ride. A day? Two days? A week? Well, by the end of the day and after a very satisfying dinner, I think I would have been good for another ride the following day.  Not another 150 km mind you but 60-75 km would have been OK.

That evening, we headed down to the St. Clair River (about a five-minute walk from our house) for what proved to be a really good fireworks show. Happy Birthday Canada but it is unlikely that I will be able to celebrate our 175th in the same manner.  I mean, I feel good, but I’m not a physical miracle. I’ll leave that to others!!!.

Your friend, Paul.

And remember – Carpe Diem (but in relaxed sort of way)!.

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